FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Palestine is Drying Up Before Our Eyes

by DANNY MULLER

The water crisis in Palestine is 100% human-made, not a climate change catastrophe, not an issue of deforestation or drought.  Don’t let the location fool you; as Ziyad Lunat from the Thirsting For Justice campaign pointed out, “Palestine and Israel get the same amount of rainfall as England. “

We say Palestine, mind you, not the West Bank and/or Gaza and/or the Occupied Territories. When we say Palestine, we mean all of it.   The Palestine that is Gaza, the West Bank, the 64+ year flood of refugees in Jordan and Syria and Turkey and Chicago, the largest flood of refugees in modern history that span across the globe.

This water catastrophe — this other type of nakba — is definitively the result of Israel’s apartheid policies that are being conducted continuously, evident in the waterborne disease spreading throughout Palestinian refugee camps that are perhaps not an accident, an inconvenient oversight.   Perhaps they are part of the continuing collateral damage of a so-called unsolvable crisis that in person, feels much more like the combination of a big lie and a large land grab. And as in other places, behindeverylandgrabisawatergrab.

Israeli policies and practices limit Palestinians’ access to the water they are entitled to under international law. Israel controls all sources of freshwater in the West Bank.  In Gaza, 90 to 95 percent of the coastal aquifer, on which Gaza inhabitants are dependent for water, is contaminated due to over extraction and sewage contamination, making it unfit for human consumption.  For most Palestinians, this ongoing and catastrophic water crisis is what they face daily, when they wash clothing, need a glass of water or try to water their crops.

Thirsting for Justice

During my most recent trip to Palestine while traveling with Barbara Lubin, Executive Director of the MiddleEastChildrensAlliance ( MECA), I was directly asked by one of MECAspartnersto take part in the ThirstingforJusticeSummerChallenge and only consume 6.3 gallons of water for one 24-hour period in solidarity with Palestinians.  In the moment, I promised to participate and now I ask you to consider joiningthiscampaign as well.

In Palestine, MECA was working to further our partnership with UNRWA to sustain and support  MECAsongoingMaiaproject, which provides clean drinking water for children throughout kindergartens and UN schools in Gaza.  As a natural extension of MECA’s humanitarian efforts, they are a member of the Emergency Water Sanitation and Hygiene group (EWASH), a coalition of 30 leading humanitarian organizations that launched this Thirsting for Justice Campaign.  These groups have realized that demand for clean water will only increase unless there is some component where they do not just respond to the overwhelming need for clean water, but they advocate for a change in Israel’s water policy, which in my view amounts to liquid apartheid.

Taking the Challenge

I am not going to lie to you for a moment.  This challenge is an impossible and completely symbolic task. How does one in the places we live respond to such a challenge?  I, for one, procrastinated and delayed, as such is my privilege, since this is a symbolic nothingness, a gesture, a shoulder shrug.   Solidarity?  Perhaps.  But solidarity means nothing when the 6.3 gallons I consumed during my allotted and chosen 24 hours were highly purified, compared to the water in Gaza, where I know from experience that if you take a hot shower the salt in the water burns your skin, that friends invite you to brush your teeth with their own bottled water so that your teeth won’t begin to erode for use of tap water.  Water in Palestine is often so heavily salinated or in short supply that blue baby syndrome, liver afflictions, and kidney problems are all too commonly spoken on the lips of mothers when talking about their children.

Yet still I delayed.   A 6.3 gallon challenge?  Are you kidding me?  I flush the toilet twice in the same day and I fail.  If I do a load of laundry, or turn on the dishwasher, I fail.  One shower, failure.  I am American, therefore entitled to unlimited resources, am I not?  Isn’t the American way of life not up for negotiation?

I finally acquiesced and undertook the Thirsting For Justice Challenge.  Yesterday, instead of showering, I swam in the ocean. I pissed outdoors — I never flushed.  I did not use dishes, except for one glass. I attempted the challenge and in the process spent countless gallons of oil and even more kilowatts of electricity, especially if you are reading this, all to communicate to you the importance of the Thirsting for Justice campaign, all to attempt  to wash off the guilt and the default complicity we share in this occupation, all to complete a promise.

Taking part in the Thirsting for Justice Summer Challenge did make me think more about what it means to consume. Consume. Consume. The American mantra.  We consume and destroy, and we do not question policies like the ongoing occupation and division of Palestine that we fund every day with US tax dollars. All of this, of course, is completely absent from debates, from dialogue, from the ongoing election cycle that makes one nauseous enough it makes it difficult to swallow. Even this symbolic feeling of being deprived of water, if just for one day, gives one pause to think about things such as this.

This symbolic challenge is a challenge nonetheless, one I invite you to consider, to embrace, to make you pause, despite all the noise, and join in the  walk with the peoples of Palestine.  The more who join the walk will be haunted as am I by Martin Luther King’s words: “ In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

What now?

When I left Palestine weeks ago and returned home, (as is my privilege, I have freedom to travel,  I am not Palestinian)  sometimes things seemed more silent than ever.  Sometimes I thought about how much harder it is to speak when you are thirsty. Sometimes I wished there was an easy way to be be heard by you, Israel.  Because you are choking Palestine.  There literally is no Jordan River anymore. You dam(n) the water from the underground aquifers that provide water to Palestinians, you poison their wells, you have built walls to encompass the high ground, you redirect the streams to fill swimming pools of settlers born of other lands with other privileges, many of whom are surprisingly well armed. With US weapons no less.

6.3 gallons. Per person. Per diem. I grab at the easy words in easy reach, carpe diem, to louden the call to join this Thirsting for Justice campaign today, but I cringe now at this phrase.  Being in Palestine makes you realize seizure means something different when you are on the receiving end of of being seized.

Lessons learned?

What is 6.3 gallons?  It is Israeli water torture.  It is part of the occupation.  It is part of maintaining the stalemate, the status quo, the divide and conquer, the non-solution is a solution.   In the meantime, in the never ending interim, if you are Palestinian, just keep your water consumption under 6.3 gallons a day or there will be hell to pay.

I now know more deeply that expecting one to live on 6.3 gallons of water in a day is an insult. It’s collective punishment. It’s fucking horrible. An allotment of 6.3 gallons of water a day makes you want to flee.

This is not about me or you joining the Thirsting for Justice Summer campaign.  This is about Israel using allotment of water resources as one of the many weapons in their arsenal to maintain their ongoing occupation.  This is about making Palestine unlivable.  This is about creating a different kind of Exodus. This is about a new Trail of Tears.   But this is a controlled amount of tears, and it is controlled at the water spigots, controlled at the borders, controlled in the halls in Washington and the Knesset and in the lack of news you hear about the unwillingness of many Palestinians to be truly part of their two paltry puppets, the PA and Hamas.

This other Trail of Tears is drier and longer and older than you think.  Listen.  Do you hear the footsteps?  More feet down the trail every day, with our silence. More tears. All happening in real time, all with the blind allegiance and support of the USA.

By no means, do I know what it is to walk any Trail of Tears.  All I can think is to try to strive to accompany in some small way those who have been forced on this path by no choice of their own. That many of those walking are children.  That there are choices before all of us, that we can, in fact, ourselves thirst for justice in our own way and shrink the gap between those on the receiving end, those whose lives know only war and occupation and those of us who, by default, by waking up in America, are the ones who are partly responsible.

Danny Muller has worked with the MiddleEastChildrensAlliance since they were jointly breaking the economic sanctions against Iraq with Voices in the Wilderness in the 1990’s.   He is raising money to build a water treatment unit at the UNRWA Rehabilitation Centre for Visually Impaired (RCVI) where almost 500 students come for training and treatment but have no access to clean water, and asks that you consider makingadonationandsupportPalestine.

COMING IN SEPTEMBER

A Special Memorial Issue of CounterPunch

Featuring recollections of Alexander Cockburn from Jeffrey St. Clair, Peter Linebaugh, Paul Craig Roberts, Noam Chomsky, Mike Whitney, Doug Peacock, Perry Anderson, Becky Grant, Dennis Kucinich, Michael Neumann, Susannah Hecht, P. Sainath, Ben Tripp, Alison Weir, James Ridgeway, JoAnn Wypijewski, John Strausbaugh, Pierre Sprey, Carolyn Cooke, Conn Hallinan, James Wolcott, Laura Flanders, Ken Silverstein, Tariq Ali and many others …

Subscribe to CounterPunch Today to Reserve Your Copy

More articles by:
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
Binoy Kampmark
Headaches of Empire: Brexit’s Effect on the United States
Dave Lindorff
Honest Election System Needed to Defeat Ruling Elite
Louisa Willcox
Delisting Grizzly Bears to Save the Endangered Species Act?
Jason Holland
The Tragedy of Nothing
Jeffrey St. Clair
Revolution Reconsidered, Guest Starring Bernard Sanders in the Role of Robespierre
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail